June 11th, 2014 Arianna Huffington at Alley NYC


Alley NYC has a peculiar way of organizing talks. Last June 11, a reminder to come early at 5:30 p.m. was emailed but upon arriving at the co-working space, people had nothing to do but wait and wait and wait. Even when there was social networking happening in the lobby, people broke away from it and started lining up to the next room to get the best seats. People were at the co-working space to hear Arianna Huffington talk about her latest book, “Thrive”: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder.” The reception area had her book displayed, but he was told it was not for sale, omitting that her book was actually on sale at the lobby inside.

But all this confusion didn’t seem to bother the huge crowd, even if this was not the first time this has happened. The important thing was that they got their seats. At exactly 7 p.m., her scheduled talk, Huffington arrived in a predominantly white garb, gliding into the room with a personal assistant in tow. Meaning business or perhaps knowing people have waited too long, Arianna didn’t give so much an introduction but a quick zinger. It captured people’s attention right away.

“For those who are meeting me for the first time, this accent is for real,” she said, easing people into their seats as she talked animatedly for 20 minutes. She then spent the next half hour answering questions and signing books. “It turned out to be a popular accent, except in Arizona.”

It’s not common to see a book launch at Alley NYC, but Huffington is after all a startup founder in her own right. She founded Huffington Post in 2005. Two years into building that, she collapsed from exhaustion, smashing her cheekbone on the corner of her desk. “I had to slow down and reevaluate the choices I was making,” she said to a crowd that probably needs to slow down the most—people who are busy with their own startups.

 Huffington was clearly talking about the reason why she has written a book that is very personal compared to her other books about Washington, DC. This may also be why she’s patient with the crowd, as she asked, “Who is the most skeptical (among) the audience? “Skip to the science in the book.” By saying that, Huffington is still playing the journalistic card; that her book has facts, not just great, first-hand insights; they’re actually like storytelling insights the way she makes sense of common sense.

In our obsession with phones, she could probably convince you to give it up.

When we’re not using the phone, she said, we’re thinking of how our power bar is waning, and how we also worry where we can find an outlet to charge our phone.  And when we do use our phone for work, we think we’re productive when we’re not.

“We think we’re multitasking when we’re actually task-switching,” said Huffington who makes sure her eight-hour weekday editorial staff doesn’t reply after office hours. Her office has two nap rooms. If your excuse to having your phone beside your bed is because you use it as an alarm clock, says Huffington, the solution is a cheap alarm clock; it stops you from looking at your phone all the time.

All these add up to a stressful life when you should be sleeping. “Sleep 8 hours a day and you won’t even need an alarm (clock),” she said. Huffington slept only 5 hours a night back in her early years at Huffington Post.

Evangelizing sleep-derivation may be small time for Huffington’s politics, but no subject is trivial for her. She quotes Bill Clinton who at one point regarded the mistakes he made to his tiredness.

“Find an extra 30 minutes to sleep early,” she said, adding that House of Cards on Netflix can wait till the weekend. “Gently escort them (your phone) out of the bedroom.”

Bottom line is you are your most precious resource. “There’s a reason no eulogy reads like this, ‘He increased market share’….”

But in a crowd full of startups that probably pull in all-nighters, she takes a break from her New Age train of thought to speak their language, “Constantly disrupt yourself before others can disrupt you.”

And just so you know, she didn’t carry a phone or look at one even on her way to her Lexus SUV.